ith many of the other males on my flight, I exited the jetway at the airport terminal and headed straight to the men’s room. As I stood facing the line of porcelain fixtures, a man next to me
(a complete stranger) leaned over and said, “Has it ever occurred to you that this is the only time during the day when a guy knows exactly what he’s doing?”
I’ve often reflected on that unsolicited observation. Life in this day and age is unbelievably complex. And for men, specifically Christian men, the demands and expectations are incredibly high. We are expected to serve well our families, our neighbors, our employers, and our God. As those roles change with time and trends, no wonder there are precious few moments during a typical day when we know exactly what we’re doing.
Plus, we’re constantly bombarded with media messages—both expressed and implied—urging us to earn more, exercise more, travel more, eat more, buy more, spend more. The cacophony of so many urgent messages has left more than a few men overworked, overextended, overstressed, and spiritually depleted. And the fallout from that type of intemperate behavior affects our homes, congregations, and workplaces; not to mention our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
To anyone who feels the need to step off the treadmill—even temporarily—Jesus offers this time-honored promise in the words of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase: “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt. 11:28, 29, Message).*
Writing as one who only rarely knows exactly what I’m doing, I offer these brief suggestions for preserving your sanity while fulfilling your obligations to God and society:
1. It’s all about grace.
The understanding that we can’t do anything to make God love us more, nor can we do anything to make Him love us less, gives us freedom to just rest in the assurance of His love and acceptance. My heart aches for those who have yet to learn this lesson; for those who see God as Someone who examines every word, every action, every motive as an excuse to delete our names from His list of true believers. Living for Christ is not a burden when we realize that He is more committed to our salvation than we are. He died so that we could live without the burdens of guilt and oppression. Our salvation is secure. And that fact should be reflected to those in our circles of influence.
2. Prioritize your priorities. It’s amazing how many burdens we carry from day to day. And the obligations we face are not insignificant. We owe it to our families to be there when they need us. We owe it to our employers to provide honest, faithful service during business hours. We are also obliged to share our skills and talents with our churches and communities. The secret is to keep all these obligations in balance and make sure the truly important things are highest on our priority list.
3. Nurture yourself, then others. A relationship with Jesus doesn’t happen by osmosis; it’s a discipline that has to be practiced every day. The good news: There’s no “one size fits all” devotional plan. Do what works best for you, but build into your day specific blocks of time dedicated to maintaining your relationship with Jesus through prayer, devotional reading, and doing something for others. Reserve time for exercise, inexpensive hobbies, and self-improvement.
4. Cultivate romance. We were created with a built-in need to be intimate (so were women). But one of the first casualties of today’s stressful lifestyles is marital intimacy. And it’s no secret that men and women see intimacy from different perspectives. But this is where grace comes in: Looking to our partner’s needs over our own should help create a climate that satisfies us both.
Not surprisingly, the secrets of knowing how to be happily and successfully male have been outlined in the Bible for millennia. The Sabbath, for example, gives us permission to step back from the stresses of life and revel in God’s grace, examine our priorities in the light of His kingdom principles, experience spiritual and physical regeneration, and carve out quality time for true intimacy with our life partner.
It seems that even at Creation God had solutions for guys like us.
*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Stephen Chavez is managing editor of the Adventist Review.